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Pool Fitness - Exercises, drills and tips

Pool Training Techniques

Article by Adam Cowell

Push and glide

Every time you push away from the wall at the end of the pool, you have an opportunity to gain distance while using little to no energy. Developing an effective push and glide away from the wall can take a substantial amount of distance away from the total swim and help you get up to speed more effectively.

How to:

• Sink, with diving arms above your head unfold your body into a spring push away from the wall. Maintain your glide not to far away from the top but deep enough that you are not breaking water with any part of your body. When you feel your glide sowing begin kicking your way to the surface of the water and start your stroke.


• Practice your push and glide at the end of the pool. Initially, just glide, coming to the surface, and marking a reference point at the side of the pool to beat the next time.

• Practice pushing and gliding into a front crawl.


Sprints are a good way to train explosive power and balance at speed.


• Sprint at 100% to the halfway mark of the pool, rest for 10 seconds at the side, and then make your way back into the middle of the lane. Then, a deep water start (explained later) into a sprint back end of the pool. Repeat in sets, alternating between wall starts and deep water starts during each set.


This is good practice for handling your stroke, balance and breathing at speed. Breathing should decrease to 3 or 4 strokes per breath.

Pyramid/Alternate/Interval sets

Pool training can be tedious and seem relentless. Break up your training into these various sets to increase your distance per training session.


• The pyramid set begins by ascending up sets of 1, 2, 3 etc lengths of continuous swimming before resting. For example on number 3 you will swim 3 lengths without stopping, before having a 15 second rest. You can ascend up to any number you wish, bear in mind you have to descend down!

• Alternate stroke training - Vary lengths of front crawl and breaststroke to maximise the muscle groups engaged in the training session. The breaststroke length will act as a slower ‘rest’ length to increase the distance you can swim before resting.

•Interval training - Swim at alternation 80% and 50% effort levels per length. Essentially one fast length to one slow length, again increasing the distance you swim before resting.

Head above water

Tarzan swimming / polo swimming - this drill has many names and uses. When using it for pool fitness, think resistance training.


• Swim a length with your head above water. The higher you lift your head out the harder it will become - as you are creating more surface area for water resistance to take place and upsetting your body position (swimming at an incline).


This exercise is extremely tiring - go one length at a time to avoid getting into trouble. Relax and do not strain your back and neck muscles as you swim.

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